Breaking news: Aidan Gillen to portray controversial comic Dave Allen

Dave Allen
Actor and comedian Dave Allen's groundbreaking comedy work continues to enthral (Image credit: PA Archive/PA Images)

BBC2 have announced their new biopic, starring Aidan Gillen as iconic Irish comic, Dave Allen, is a who’s who of British and Irish talent...

In his lifetime, groundbreaking Irish comic Dave Allen was divisive - hated and revered in equal measure. No subject was off-limits for the brave performer who managed to survive decades of the Roman Catholic Church’s wrath, death threats from the IRA and a ban by both Irish and Australian TV, only to have his television career end in controversy when he used the f-word in an innocuous joke!

With tall tales about how he lost his finger and seemingly drinking whiskey throughout his act (ginger beer!), Dave was actually something of a mystery to the millions who thought they knew him. So it’s with much excitement What's on TV can reveal, today BBC2 announced Dave Allen is getting the biopic treatment in a one-off special called Dave Allen at Peace.

Aidan Gillen successfully managed to portray former Irish Taoiseach, Charlie Haughey, in 2015. So Dave Allen should be an easier transformation...

Aidan Gillen successfully managed to portray former Irish Taoiseach, Charlie Haughey, in 2015. So Dave Allen should be an easier transformation... (Image credit: AFF/PA Images)

The good news keeps coming - Aidan Gillen, star of Queer as Folk, The Wire and Game of Thrones, has been cast in the title role of the hour-long factual drama, which promises to delve into Dave Allen’s controversial forty-year career.

The film will explore how Dave’s comedy brilliance was shaped by the tragic loss of his father, his brother, John, who he worked with at Butlins as a redcoat… and his finger! The screenplay is by Stephen Russell (We’re Doomed: The Dad’s Army Story, Hattie, and Peaky Blinders) and has attracted an impressive supporting cast. Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones) will take on the role of Allen’s brother, John, Dave’s parents will be played by Tommy Tiernan (Derry Girls, Father Ted) and Joanne Crawford (Line of Duty), and there are cameo appearances from Robert Bathurst (Cold Feet), Pauline McLynn (Father Ted), Ian McElhinney (Star Wars: Rogue One), Simon Day (The Fast Show) and Julian Rhind-Tutt (Green Wing).

Speaking about the new commission Patrick Holland, Controller of BBC Two said: “Stephen Russell has written a wonderful script that is surprising, innovative and poignant, exploring the people and forces that went into making Dave Allen the comic genius he was. With Aidan Gillen leading a stellar cast, this promises to be a real treat.”

Dave Allen rarely sat between two stools...

Dave Allen rarely sat between two stools... (Image credit: PA Archive/PA Images)

According to the BBC press release: “The film will be structured in affectionate homage to Dave’s original television format. From his famous bar stool, the comic will reflect on his formative years and showbiz career. Flashbacks, some visualised as comedy sketches, will intercut his bar stool repartee bringing significant moments to life.”

Dave Allen rehearsing for Peter Pan with Maggie Smith

Dave Allen rehearsing for Peter Pan with Maggie Smith (Image credit: PA Archive/PA Images)

Filming starts this month in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Screen and RTE are partners on the project.

Elaine Reilly
Writer for TV Times, What’s On TV, TV & Satellite Week and What To Watch

With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and covering a variety of programs from gardening and wildlife to documentaries and drama.


As well as active involvement in the WTW family’s social media accounts, she has been known to get chatty on the red carpet and wander into the odd podcast. 

After a day of previewing TV, writing about TV and interviewing TV stars, Elaine likes nothing than to relax… by watching TV.